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When Is a Goal Rational?
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4063-3219
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0071-3919
2005 (English)In: Social Choice and Welfare, ISSN 0176-1714, E-ISSN 1432-217X, Vol. 24, no 2, 343-361 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In decision theory goals are usually taken as given inputs to the analysis, and the focus is on finding the most efficient means to achieve the goals. But where goals are set with the purpose of achieving them, it is important to know what properties they should possess in order to be successful (or achievement-inducing). Four such properties (or rationality criteria) are discussed, namely that goals should be precise, evaluable, approachable and motivating. Precision and evaluability are epistemic properties that concern what the agent may know. Approachability is an ability-related property that concerns what the agent can do. Motivity is a volitional property that concerns what the agent wants to do. Goals may satisfy the rationality criteria to a greater or lesser extent. Some goals are achievement-inducing mainly because they guide action towards the end-state well, others mainly because they motivate the agent to act towards the realization of the end-state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 24, no 2, 343-361 p.
Keyword [en]
MOTIVATION
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9262DOI: 10.1007/s00355-003-0309-8ISI: 000230080800008Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-21244475548OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-9261DiVA: diva2:37822
Note
QC 20100715Available from: 2008-10-14 Created: 2008-10-14 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Rational Goal-Setting in Environmental Policy: Foundations and Applications
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rational Goal-Setting in Environmental Policy: Foundations and Applications
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

 The overall aim of this thesis is to present a model for rational goal-setting and to illustrate how it can be applied in evaluations of public policies, in particular policies concerning sustainable development and environmental quality. The contents of the thesis are divided into two sections: a theoretical section (Papers I-IV) and an empirical section (Papers V-VII). Paper I identifies a set of rationality criteria for single goals and discusses them in relation to the typical function of goals. It is argued that goals are typically set to enhance goal achievement. A goal that successfully furthers its achievement is “achievement-inducing”. It holds for each of the identified criteria that, ceteris paribus, improved satisfaction of a criterion makes a goal better in the achievement-inducing sense.Paper II contains an analysis of the notion of goal system coherence. It is argued that the coherence of a goal system is determined by the relations that hold among the goals in the system, in particular the relations of operationalization, means and ends, support, and conflict. Paper III investigates the rationality of utopian goals. The paper analyzes four arguments that support the normative criterion of attainability: that utopian goals are (1) too imprecise and (2) too far-reaching to guide action effectively, (3) counterproductive, and (4) morally objectionable. A tentative defence of utopian goal-setting is built on counter-arguments that can be put forward to weaken each of the four objections. Paper IV investigates the nature of self-defeating goals. The paper identifies three types of situations in which self-defeating mechanisms obstruct goal achievement: (1) situations in which the goal itself carries the seeds of its own non-fulfilment (self-defeating goals), (2) situations in which the activity of goal-setting contributes to goal failure (self-defeating goal-setting), and (3) situations in which disclosure of the goal interferes with progress (self-defeating goal disclosure). Paper V provides a brief description of the Swedish system of environmental objectives and a preliminary inventory of the management difficulties that attach to this goal system.Paper VI contains an investigation into the rationality of five Swedish environmental objectives through an application of the rationality criteria identified in Papers I-II. The paper identifies and discusses some difficulties that are associated with management by objectives and the use of goals in environmental policy. Paper VII analyses the rationality of the Swedish environmental quality objective A good built environment. Among the conclusions drawn in the paper are that some of the sub-goals to the objective are formulated in terms that are unnecessarily vague from an action-guiding standpoint and that others are problematic from the viewpoint of evaluability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2008. x, 33 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 29
Keyword
goal-setting, rationality, goal systems, precision, evaluability, attainability, motivity, coherence, operationalization, means and ends, support relations, goal conflicts, utopianism, self-defeating goals, management by objectives (MBO), environmental quality objectives, sustainable development
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-9273 (URN)978-91-7415-104-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-10-17, E3, KTH, Osquars Backe 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100715Available from: 2008-10-14 Created: 2008-10-14 Last updated: 2014-01-21Bibliographically approved
2. How to Set Rational Environmental Goals: theory and applications
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How to Set Rational Environmental Goals: theory and applications
2006 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

Environmental goals are commonly set to guide work towards ecological sustainability. The aim of this thesis is to develop a precise terminology for the description of goals in terms of properties that are important in their practical use as decision-guides and to illustrate how it can be used in evaluations of environmental policy.

Essay I (written together with Sven Ove Hansson) identifies a set of rationality criteria for individual goals and discusses them in relation to the typical function of goals. For a goal to perform its typical function, i.e., to guide and induce action, it must be precise, evaluable, approachable (attainable), and motivating.

Essay II argues that for a goal system to be rational it must not only satisfy the criteria identified in Essay I but should also be coherent. The coherence of a goal system is made up of the relations that hold among the goals, most notably relations of support and conflict, but possibly also relations of operationalization. A major part of the essay consists in a conceptual analysis of the three relations.

Essay III contains an investigation into the rationality of five Swedish environmental objectives through an application of the rationality criteria identified in Essays I-II. The paper draws the conclusion that the objectives are not sufficiently rational according to the suggested criteria. It also briefly points at some of the difficulties that are associated with the use of goals in environmental policy and managemen

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2006. viii, 14 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1654-627X
Keyword
goal-setting, rationality, precision, evaluability, approachability, motivity, coherence, operationalization, goal conflicts, environmental objectives, sustainable development
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-3875 (URN)91-7178-235-4 (ISBN)
Presentation
2006-02-09, Avd för filosofi, Teknikringen 78 B, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101111Available from: 2006-03-13 Created: 2006-03-13 Last updated: 2014-01-21Bibliographically approved

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